Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I have been using the social bookmarking tool, DIIGO, for several years.  I rely a lot on this site and am constantly adding to my account.  Here is my personal modus operandi with DIIGO:

1.  As I skim through the items in my Google Reader or my Twitter account, I open the ones that interest me.  

2.   If I think an item I've read may be of use to me in the future, I click on the DIIGO button in my toolbar and choose bookmark. 
 I do the same after following a link to another article or YouTube video.

3.   Then if the title of an item is self-explanatory such as 12 Crucial Questions to Ask before Using iPad with your Students, I just add it to my  account.  If the title isn't sufficient,  I add a note in the space available when I click Bookmark.
4.  Then I perform the most important step which is to give the entry multiple tags (labels).  For example,  for Education 2020,  I  used connectivism , gamification,  project-based learning,  and  Inquirybased learning.

5.  Once in a while if I have found something that relates to health or family that I don't want to share with the public, I click the small box labeled Private, so that only I can see it.

When I am planning a new mod for my course or updating an existing one, I rely heavily on my DIIGO account to find information that I have put there.  For example, I recently created a mod on gamification.  I had been collecting articles about gaming for quite some time,  so I looked at all the DIIGO entries that I had tagged game, games, gamification, and gaming to find pertinent material.  This review also allowed me to delete or edit material that I deemed less useful.

Another way I use DIIGO is to include a link to a specific tag in my DIIGO account in my syllabus.  For example, instead of telling the students to search all of cyberspace for pertinent articles on microblogging for education, I simply ask them to choose some  articles from my DIIGO account with Twitter tags.  

I honestly couldn't function with DIIGO!

Google Reader

Google Reader is my lifeline to other professionals.  In my reader I have feeds to other educators in the fields of educational technology and second language learning.  Each morning I skim through the titles of blog post feeds to see which ones merit reading.   Although some people have feeds from newspapers, I prefer to use Google Reader just for blog posts.

Some bloggers post a tremendous amount.  (I don't know when they sleep!)  However, since Reader allows me to view just the titles on my iGoogle homepage, I can quickly delete material that doesn't interest me.  Or if I choose to view items on my Google Reader homepage, I can quickly scroll through my folders in the left sidebar.  Since the blogs with recent posts appear in bold. I can click on them to see the entire posts on the right. 

Keeping my Google Reader manageable requires some "gardening skills."  Once  in a while, I remember to "weed" my garden of feeds by going to the Reader page and clicking Trends.  That way I can see which subscriptions are  less useful by clicking on Inactive or Most Obscure under Subscription Trends and deleting those feeds. 

  Wow!  I think I need to do that now!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tips for Lifelong Learners

As part of an online course called Tools of Engagement, I viewed a 4 minute video called  7 1/2 Habits of Highly Successful lifelong Learners. These are the three habits that resonated with me.

View problems as challenges

Saha bday Up up up
I think I can!
I teach an online course about using technology in second and foreign language classrooms.  As we all know, our relationship with technology is frequently a love/hate relationship.  When things go smoothly we luxuriate in the many ways technology makes our lives and our learning easier.  On the other hand, when problems arise, we can get very frustrated.
Viewing problems as challenges is a good way to look at these occasional frustrations.   We have various ways of meeting tech challenges.  One is to go carefully through the steps we used and, perhaps, write them down.  Sometimes our own error then jumps out at us.  Another way to meet the challenge is to Google the problem.  Usually someone in cyberspace has encountered the same problem and posted a solution.

Create your own learning toolbox
Fill 'er up!
My learning toolbox is the Internet.  Networking with other professionals through social networking sites like Ning, Yahoo groups and Twitter keeps me up to date on the future of education.  Free, online webinars are also essential tools in my toolbox.

 Teach/mentor others

Tutoring Center
How about this way?

Since retiring from f2f teaching of English as a Second  Language, I have been able to devote most of my time to the online course mentioned in #1.  I truly enjoy continuing to learn and sharing what I learn with future teachers.  In the field of educational technology, things are always in a state of "perpetual beta" and I realize that full-time students and teachers often don't have time to explore educational tech as much as they would like.  For that reason, I feel that I can make a contribution to the next generation of teachers by doing some of the groundwork myself and then pointing them in the right direction so they can each choose whichever tech tools best meet their individual needs.

Friday, September 21, 2012


As part of a project at UB called Tools of Engagement, I am exploring some features of Flickr and other online sites. I haven't taken the time to clear up "red eye" in some of the photos I used for today's creations, but my purpose was simply  to try out  features of different tools and the photos worked for that.

 Here's a  Flickr slide show of Naps.  I uses a "set" of pix in Flickr to create this.  I could also use the set to create the Animoto version.  It would have been easier, however, if I could have used "tags" to find photos for uploading but I didn't see that option.

Here is the Animoto version .

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

 And here is the Flixtime version with some of the same photos.

 Although the Flixtime version photos seemed fuzzier, there are also some features in that program that might be worth exploring like voice over.  However, I had to download the Flickr photos to my hard drive in order to upload them to Flixtime.

I wanted to use the site Stupeflix which I had used before but there doesn't seem to be a free version any longer.  Too bad.  I liked the site.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Perpetual Beta


As I begin teaching my online course called Technologies in Second Language Classrooms this semester, I want to take a moment to look back at how the course has changed over the years.  There  have been changes in both the content and the activities I ask the participants to do. However, I find that three guiding principles seem to be the basis for how I created the course and the changes that I have made.  The three general features which I felt were important then and still feel are  critical now are  learning by doing, staying connected, thinking globally.

The original 2004 course was called Computer Technology in L2 Learning.  In that first  f2f  course which I taught in a computer lab, the readings were a combination of a 1999 text on computer-assisted language learning, and many online articles about webquests and intercultural communication.  The students were required to create a website using MS Front Page, create a webquest lesson plan and teach a computer skill to the class from a list that included MS Publisher, tracking changes with MS Word, Yahoo groups, Tapped In, Inspiration, and Schmooze University. 

Let's jump ahead to 2008 to Using the Internet in the L2 Classroom.  The course is now online and we are using Will Richardson's text Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms but we are using the first (2006) edition.   Thankfully, students no longer need to learn how to create a website from scratch but they create their own blogs, Googledocs documents and podcasts.  They reflect on George Siemens' connectivist theory of learning and get connected through Nings, Delicious, and Twitter.  The Googledocs assignment is a group project with each student reviewing two tools (one synchronous and one asynchronous) from a suggested list of Internet tools.  To think globally, the students choose from a list of sites which allow for global collaboration and review one of them.

What changes have 4 more years brought?  Richardson's text, now in its 3rd edition, is still the basic reading material.   Students learn utilize blogs and VoiceThread for sharing their ideas and creations.  They practice story-telling by using tools such as Bookr, Bubblr and comic strip generators.   They explore gamification by exploring language games.  They complete a group project using Googledocs presentations in which they compare several Internet tools of their own choosing.

They stay connected with Nings or Yahoo groups, DIIGO and Twitter.  They explore ePals in depth to reflect on how to connect their own classrooms with the world.
I think the guiding principles of learning by doing, staying connected and thinking globally remain relevant in 2012.  What changes over time is the tools used to accomplish these ends.  For that reason, the course will remain in "perpetual beta."

Monday, September 03, 2012

How Do You Spell Frustration? Wiki!


In 2006 I created a wiki called SUNYAB in Wikispaces.  I planned to use it to store my syllabus for use and for further revision.  I was also hoping to include a mod in my online course in which the students would create wikis for their own use.

However, I became frustrated with trying to figure out how things worked.  Thinking that perhaps the problem was the software, I then tried PBWorks, only to suffer the same frustration.

Now since I am following an online workshop called Tools of Engagement, I thought I would try again.  However, I've run into the same problems. Such simple things as centering text or switching to an HTML view are some of the functions that have me baffled.  In an article on wikis that I found through the Tools of Engagement, Teaching History with Technology, the author compares wikis with Google Sites.

An increasingly popular alternative to a wiki is Google Sites. Formerly known as Google Pages, Google Sites is a free website creation tool that has incorporated features commonly associated with wikis. For instance, Google Sites includes a "revision history" of edits and provides the ability to insert comments. A significant Google Sites advantage is that multiple people can edit a web page at exactly the same time. Multiple people can edit a wiki page, but not at the exact same time. Google Sites is also intuitive and arguably less "clunky" than a wiki. That said, Google Sites is not a true wiki editor and lacks some of wiki features and flexibility.

 I have not yet tried Google Sites, but if it is as easy to use as Googledocs, I would probably prefer it to Wikispaces.  I realize that it takes a certain amount of time to learn any new online tool, but I've now invested several hours without any real success.  So, for now, it's no wikis for me!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Another Step Toward Gamification

We are now beginning week 4 of GamesMOOC and I've had an epiphany regarding gamification and language learning.  For years I hesitated to include a games mod in my online course because I felt that I didn't have any experience on MMORPGs.  However, as I tried out some of the single player games suggested in the GamesMOOC, I realized that for language teachers, the game itself doesn't have to be the where the language learning occurs. The language learning can be before, during or after any game. 

Actually I had read Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley's book, Digital Play, and have Mawer's blog of the same name in my RSS feeds.  They suggest ways to use many genres of games such as "hidden objects", "dressing up", and "escape the room" for language learning, but  I think that I was hung up on the multi-player idea and was blind to other ideas.  Lee Sheldon's book The Multiplayer Classroom also discouraged me because the examples of coursework as games was directed at teachers who were real gamers and that's not me!

I think that I was under the impression that it was the vocabulary used in the games that would be important for L2 learners, but I have realized that the vocabulary can be pre-taught in the same way as pre-teaching vocabulary before any assignment.  What can add to the language learning experience are the pre- and post-game activities which may be oral or written learning tasks about strategies used in the game, obstacles encountered, or whether someone liked the game or not and what could be done to make it more interesting.
In the past week of the GamesMOOC, however, guild officers have focused on the elements of a game that make it engaging, the basic game mechanics.   I'm going to try to apply the rubric they provided to a number of the games in  the Digital Play book and see how they measure up.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Baby Steps into Gamification

As I approach the end of week 2 of GamesMOOC, I am almost ready to really try out one of the suggested games.  I have read Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirkey,  A New Culture of Learning by James Seely Brown, The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon, and Digital Play: Computer games and language aims by Kyle Mawer and Graham Stanley.

I have always subscribed to the concept of gamification (gaming for education), but have been afraid to actually try out online or COTS (commercial over the counter games).  By participating in this GamesMOOC, I think I may finally be ready to jump in!  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Six-year Blogging Anniversay

I just realized that I have been blogging for six years.  My inspiration for starting was Will Richardson's text Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools  which is now in its third edition with Richardson promising another update.  

I particularly like Richardson's distinction in the book between what blogging is and what it isn't.   Here are some examples of what blogging is not in his view:

Posting assignments. (Not blogging.)
Posting links. (Not blogging.)
Journaling, i.e., "This is what I did today." (Not blogging).

His list of "real blogging"on the other hand, includes reflective, metacognitive writing, and extended analysis or synthesis over an extended period of time.  Most important is that a blog post should be a reaction to something.  It could be a reflection on other's posts, or on the ideas in a book.  It could also be a reaction to a video, conference or webinar.  The idea is that a blog post should be part of an ongoing conversation whether this means a conversation with oneself or a conversation with others.

I have an RSS feed that includes many educational bloggers.  They are a constant source of inspiration and new ideas.  However, I don't often leave comments on their blogs or write posts about my reactions to their ideas. My lack of posting is probably because like any reflective writing blogging is hard work.  However, as I write this post I am reminded of a useful suggestion offered by Harold Jarche that one should establish a schedule for blogging.   So my promise to myself is to keep  track of good  I read in my Diigo account and try to blog about what I've read every Friday. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

New Threads

Old Threads by fras1977
Old Threads, a photo by fras1977 on Flickr.
I sometimes think of the ideas I get from educational posts and webinars as multiple threads that I would like to weave together and incorporate into the online course that I teach.

Let me name some of these threads:
Mobile learning
Self-directed learning

To be continued:

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Try, try again.

Jared The Thinker

This is a description of my unsuccessful attempt  to motivate the students in my online, graduate school course to write more insightful blog posts.  The course I teach is about integrating technology into the k-12 classroom. and the posts are usually reactions to specific Internet tools that the students had tried out in each mod.  After reading two of Daniel Pink's books, A Whole New Mind and Drive, about motivation, I decided to try to encourage students to give each other Kudos for exceptional blog posts.

Here is the situation.  Students were required to post to their individual blogs one or two times for each mod.  All students who posted on time (with good links, an image and multiple tags) received the same score.  However, the result is that those who blogged with really insightful ideas and those who did the minimum received the same score. 

I did not want to use a rubric because I feel there is too much subjectivity involved in judging "insightful ideas" and because it would require reading each blog post with much more scrutiny to arrive at a score.  As all teachers who evaluate essays know, this is a very time-consuming process.  So I decided to have the students give each other kudos for great posts and I created a Kudos forum in the learning management system.  Let mention that the students were not required to read each other's posts, but it was very easy to do so, since they each had a blog role of the blogs of all their classmates on their own blogs.

The result was very disappointing.  In the Kudos forum on the learning management system, there were very few kudos.  I wrongly supposed that a sort of competitive spirit would encourage students to try to write great posts in order to receive the adulation of their classmates and that they would read at least some of their classmate's posts in order to see how theirs compared.  That didn't happen.

I am rethinking the event and going to revamp it in some form in the future.  Any ideas would be most welcome.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Bring Your Own Popcorn!

Popcorn by Enokson
Popcorn, a photo by Enokson on Flickr.
I recently learned of two great websites for using movie segments to teach English as a Second or Foreign Language. Claudio Azevedo gave a presentation through the Becoming a Webhead (BaW) course of the Electronic Village Online. Claudio is a movie buff and EFL teacher and teacher trainer at the Casa Tomas Jefferson Center in Brazil. He has created Movie Segments to Assess Grammar and Movie Segments for Warm-ups and Follow-ups which offer not only movie segments, but lesson plans and downloadable worksheets.  What a treasure of a website!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Open Content Licensing for Educators 2012

Hand in Compost from The Greenest Dollar

I came a little late to a fantastic week-long online workshop on Open Content Licensing for Educators (OCL4ED) about Open Educational Resources (OER) and Creative Commons (CC) but found plenty of ideas to reflect on.  In an introductory video called Learning4Content ,Wayne McIntosh, the founder of WikiEducator presents some of the key concepts of the course.

Although I have tried to "catch up" with some of the exceptionally well presented material in the course, I feel that I am unsure about two issues:
1.) The freedom I have as a university lecturer to share my materials.
2). How content creators can make a living.
Personally, I am unsure of the "ownership" of curricula that I create for my online courses taught through a university. Since what I create is the result of what I have learned from others through books such as Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms , A New Culture of Learning; dozens of free webinars; and free online courses such as those offered through the Electronic Village Online (EVO), I feel that I would like to freely share what I have learned.   However, I'm not sure to what extent I can legally to do that. Although some institutions such as MIT have made certain courses freely available on the web, the impression I get is that universities and school districts are in a state of flux regarding these issues.

The second issue that does not seem to be dealt with directly in the course is how people who produce content can successfully earn a living if they share it all freely. In the case of teachers and professors, perhaps nothing would really change if they made their curricula or projects freely available on the web with CC licenses. However, in the case of musicians, photographers or videographers, for example, I'm not sure how they would be compensated for their creations. Their creations are their source of income.  Even if they put an All Rights Reserved CC license on their creations, isn't it still quite easy to "pirate" their material?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tools for Connecting Through Voice and Image

As part of the Electronic Village Online (EVO) 2012 session Becoming a Webhead, I am trying out various audio and video tools to evaluate their usefulness for teaching languages.  As I progress I will be adding to a Googledoc called Communication Tools which I created.  It is open to the public for additions or changes.  Feel free to contribute.

Right now I am embedding a short message that I created using AudioPal.  It was extremely easy to create, but what I want to figure out is whether it is possible to set it to mute.  I don't think it's a good idea to have audio turn on as soon as people open a blog because sometimes they are in a public or group setting and it can be distracting to everyone else.  So here goes the message I recorded using text-to-speech on AudioPal.  (BTW I discovered that in text-to-speech it is better not to use abbreviations because the voice doesn't produce them clearly).

OK. I can see that you have control over the playing of the audio. Now I'm going to try Voki.
Here's a link to a character and recording I created.  But I am also going to embed the same thing here to see what happens.

Ok.  Now let's see what Audioboo looks like.

Test of Audioboo (mp3)

Thursday, January 12, 2012


In A New Culture of Learning  Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). The New Culture of Learning, the authors extol the benefits rather than the difficulties of the relentless pace of change that we are all experiencing.   In their eyes, A growing digital, networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time (p. 17).

Two essential elements they focus on for purposes of learning are collectives and imagination. I'm going to comment a little on collectives and save imagination/play for another day.
In collectives constant interaction among group members, with their varying skills and talents, functions as a kind of peer amplifier, providing numerous outlets, resources, and aids to further an individual's learning (p. 51). ... But equally important is the ability to add one's own knowledge to the general mix.  That contribution may be large, such as a new website, or it may be a series of smaller offerings, such as comments on a blog or a forum post.  It may even be something as trivial as simply visiting a website.  But in each case, the participation has an effect, both in terms of what the individual is able to draw from it and how it shapes and augments the stream of information (p. 52).

This concept of learning through a collective sounds similar to George Siemen's theory of Connectivism which he posits in A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.  In this 2005 article Siemen's says, The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.

In rereading Siemen's article I discovered that Siemen's actually refers to John Seely Brown.  He comments that John Seely Brown presents an interesting notion that the internet leverages the small efforts of many with the large efforts of few. The central premise is that connections created with unusual nodes supports and intensifies existing large effort activities.  And Siemens concludes, This amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of connectivism.

As I participate in several of the courses offered by Electronic Village Online (EVO) 2012, I find that I am learning through interacting with the participants in each course.  I can see that the participants in each are eagerly forming collectives.  As Thomas and Brown say, Unlike a classroom where a teacher controls the lecture, the organic communities that emerge through collectives produce meaningful learning because the inquiry that arises comes from the collective  itself (p. 54).

Friday, January 06, 2012


I am attempting to organize my links and get set up for the EVO (Electronic Village Online) courses that begins on January 9.  In the syllabus for the first week of Multiliteracies for Social Networking and Collaborative Learning Environments, I found a link to the video above in which Howard Reingold interviews George Siemens. 

In the video George Siemens gives a detailed explanation of a MOOC (massive open online course).   I have  tried to participate in some MOOCs in the past, but I think that I didn't understand the concept behind them well enough to get much benefit from them. I am now lurking in the 16th week of a MOOC called Change: Education, Learning and Technology and from here on I will  have a better idea of how to navigate the chaos, expand my own learning and contribute to the conversation.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Transformational Tasks

The focus of José Picardo's blog post, Teaching and Learning with Social Media: A Case Study, really struck a chord with me.  Usually when discussing the use of technology in education, we talk about how tech tools can "enhance" teaching and learning.  However, Picardo discusses the use of social media not only to enhance but  to transform learning tasks.

He says, Most interesting to me was the transformative potential of blogs, Web 2.0 applications and social networks, not only to enhance existing practice, but also to create new technology-based tasks which would have been previously inconceivable ... 

Picardo refers to Transformation, Technology, and Education a 2006 presentation by Ruben R. Puentedura  who divides learning tasks into 4 types, two which enhance learning and two which transform it.

Image from Ruben R. Puentedura

Enhancement type tasks
Substitution - Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change
Example:  Word processor used as a typewriter
Augmentation- Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement
Examples: Use of word processor functions such as spellchecking and cut and paste
Transformation type tasks
Modification - Tech allows for significant task redesign
Example: Textual, visual, audio tools for construction of shared knowledge
Redefinition - Tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable
Example: Tools for visualization and simulation, social computing, digital storytelling, educational gaming

I decided to try to apply Puentedura's  typology using the 2 broad categories of enhancement and transformation to the Activity Types posited in World Languages Activity Types which I found in Grounded Tech Integration: Languages an article in the  ISTE Connections online magazine, Learning and Leading.  My conclusion was that the transformational aspect of tasks lies in the ability of language learners to do one or both of these things:
  • Have more control over their own learning
  • Interact  and receive  feedback. 

Here are some examples: 
  • Instead of playing an audio recording in class, the teacher posts a link to the podcast on a class blog and asks the students to post their responses to the podcast on the blog.    In this way, the students have control over the number of times they listen to the podcast and post a response which is available to a wide audience for further feedback.
  • Instead of asking students of deliver a presentation for the class, the teacher asks the students to create a video podcast which is then posted online for feedback.  Since there are many devices now available for creating and editing videos, the students would be able to create a product they were satisfied with before posting it for feedback.
  • Instead of having students send letters to a pen pal, the teacher can set up exchange emails with a speaker of the target language.  (Sites like Edmodo and ePals allow for teacher monitoring of exchanges). Or to provide language in context, the teacher could develop Skype exchanges with students in a target-language country through a site like ePals.
  • Instead of taking students on a school -sponsored  field trip, teachers can provide links to sites where students can take virtual field trips to sites not otherwise available because of distance and expense.
  • Instead of giving students access to written material in the target language in the classroom or library, the teacher can ask the students to  materials such as FL newspapers online and write comments directly on those sites.
  • Instead of asking students to write text-based stories in the classroom, the teacher can ask students to write digital-stories using  photos from Flickr on sites like BookrBubblr or Stupeflix.
  • Instead of having students fill in speech bubbles on teacher-supplied comics, teachers can ask students to create their own comics using sites like GoAnimate or Dvolver.
There is no doubt that Puentedura's conceptualization of how technology can not only enhance but transform  teaching has helped me immensely.  You can go to As We May Teach on iTunes to learn more about his ideas.  #change11